Tax rise ‘will keep bobbies on beat’

TAXPAYERS will pay more for policing from April after Bedfordshire Police Authority members voted to reject a government grant.

Sunday, 19th February 2012, 2:01 pm

Bedfordshire Police had been offered a one-off £907,000 grant to freeze its share of the council tax in the county.

But members of the authority said said accepting the cash would have left the force with a funding shortfall in coming years, leading to more police officer and staff-cuts in the long term.

The rise will mean a Band D property’s bill for policing goes up by £5.72 a year.

The authority says that during an extensive consultation, two thirds of the people surveyed said they would rather see the precept increase by between three and five per cent than risk greater cuts to policing in the county in the future.

But despite the rise, jobs are still having to be cut at Beds Police as the authority tries to cut £19 million from its budget by 2014.

Over the next 12 months, police officer numbers will be cut by 72. Out of this number, 25 posts will be retained but the duties will be carried out by civilian staff.

Police authority chairman Peter Conniff said investing now would “keep more bobbies on the beat”.

He said: ““We know in today’s difficult economy every penny counts for many residents.

“But our decision has very much been guided by their views and the fact that most would be prepared to pay more towards policing if it meant their communities remained safe.

“Over the past few years, Bedfordshire has lost out on more than £20m of funding as a result of the funding formula applied to the force.

“Couple this with the fact that we’ve had to wipe nearly the same amount off our budget following the Government’s spending review gives you an idea of scale of the challenge we have faced.

“Despite all this, we have managed to successfully restructure our organisation to become more productive – at a reduced cost to taxpayers.

“These changes have already been met with positive feedback and we are determined to protect the improvements we have made so far.”